A new verdict, and unresolved frustration. “French justice did not take my assault lightly, but the trial did not allow us to learn more, and what happened [four years ago] remains pretty obscure,” lamented Aum Neko, a pro-democracy Thai activist, and political refugee in France since 2015. On Thursday, March 2, the Paris Court of Appeal sentenced Petr Donatek, a former Czech policeman, to four years in prison, for “complicity” in the assault on Neko on November 17, 2019.
That evening, the young woman was beaten by two men as she left a bar in the 15th arrondissement of Paris with a group of friends. The police arrested the attackers, two Czechs, Daniel Vokal and Jakub Hosek. The investigation revealed a third man, another Czech, Petr Donatek, who had organized the trip and filmed the scene from the terrace of another bar.
Vokal and Hosek were sentenced to 26 months in prison on November 23, 2021. Donatek, who was still in the Czech Republic, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for “criminal conspiracy” and “complicity in aggravated assault” against Neko and one of her friends, Nithiwat Wannasiri, who was injured while trying to intervene.
Arrest in Italy
Donatek, who appealed, probably hoped never to face French justice. His conviction in a separate case in the Czech Republic had prevented the authorities in his country from handing him over to France, despite the European arrest warrant that had been issued against him. Precaution should have dissuaded him from crossing a border but in July 2022, he was arrested in Italy, where he was spending a vacation with his family, and handed over to the French authorities three months later.
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Appearing in court on February 1, Donatek failed to provide any substantive evidence, dismissing all the evidence against him as a series of unfortunate coincidences and misleading appearances. The 2019 incident, however, is far from an isolated event. All around the world, a series of mysterious assaults and disappearances have been plaguing pro-democracy activists who chose exile after the last military coup in Bangkok in 2014. But nothing in the investigation or in the statements of the accused has proven the existence of a single mastermind.
Despite her frustration, Neko said she was pleased with the verdict, “which symbolically shows that people seeking political asylum should not be at risk.” The Paris Court of Appeals increased the sentence of the first instance, while clearing Donatek of the charge of “criminal conspiracy,” which has dangerous legal consequences in combination with another conviction. “My client finds it difficult to understand a verdict that clears him of one of the charges against him but still increases his sentence,” said Pauline Marcé, Donatek’s lawyer. He is also permanently banned from French territory.